My Nashville: the chef 

As told to Hannah Ralph

Photography by Emily Dorio 

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May 2018

The superstar of southern soul food, Sean Brock knows a thing or two about refined, country grub. Here, the chef takes a moment from running his Husk restaurant empire to talk us through what’s on the menu in Music City.  

1. The Catbird Seat

When it comes to innovative southern dishes, Chef Ryan Poli is a genius. Nashville is so lucky to have him. His restaurant, The Catbird Seat features an open chef’s counter, so you can watch all the action live, and his food is a delightful combination of playful, delicious and creative. For the full experience, book in advance and try his multi-course tasting menu.  

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2. Otaku Ramen

Over in The Gulch, one of Nashville’s coolest neighbourhoods, Sarah Gavigan has taken Nashville’s favorite dish and given it a Japanese twist at her ramen bar, Otaku Ramen. Their hot chicken buns, made with boneless thigh meat, Otaku’s hot spice and a steamed bao bun, are tangy and bursting with flavor. An all-round great reinvention of the dish.

Brown’s is in an old-timey trailer with a neon-lit dining room and waitresses that have been there for decades. You have to try their cheeseburger – it’s perfection.

3. Brown's Diner

If you’re looking for an iconic Nashville institution, Brown’s Diner is it. Running since 1927, you’ll find Brown’s in an old-timey trailer with a neon-lit dining room and waitresses that have been there for decades. And no trip to Brown’s is complete without a taste of their cheeseburger. It’s perfection. Simple, no frills, and hasn’t changed a bit – even while the rest of the town changes around it.

  • Get your carnivore fix at downtown’s Oak Steakhouse.

    High steaks 

    Breezing through Nashville on a southern road trip? The Westin Hotel next door to the Oak Steakhouse offer complimentary valet parking for steakhouse guests. £366 pp

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  • Slurp up some signature Tennessee Tonkotsu at cult ramen bar, Otaku Ramen.

    Did you know…? 

    Nashville sits on the same global latitude line as Tokyo, Japan – a discovery which gave Otaku founder, Sarah Gavigan, the inspiration to make the most of the surprising ingredients that grow in both cities.  £497 return

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  • Experience Nashville’s gastronomic heights at The Catbird Seat © Anthony Tahlier.

    Michelin contender 

    The Catbird Seat’s chief innovator, chef Ryan Poli, worked in some of the world’s most famous restaurants before heading to Nashville, including world-renowned Noma and The French Laundry. £431 pp

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4. Mas Tacos Por Favor

One of Nashville’s best loved pop-ups, Mas Tacos Por Favor do have a brick and mortar location, but you can also spot the food truck around town for some grub-on-the-go. I can’t decide which is better - their beef tacos, pork tacos, or their mouth-watering chicken tortilla soup.

5. Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Arnold’s Country Kitchen is one of my favorite places in the whole country. Ultimate southern soul food. Their specialty of ‘meat and three’ is a southern tradition - one meat and three side dishes. Meatloaf and green beans are my go-to picks. Plus, they shop at the farmer’s market so their ingredients are top quality, even though it’s cafeteria style.

6. Barista Parlor

The design and aesthetic of all of Barista Parlor’s locations (they have a handful around Nashville) are just unbeatable. Andy Mumma, who’s worked in specialty coffee since he was 18, goes to great lengths to choose coffee beans that are grown and roasted responsibly. Besides the coffee, I particularly love the music and the vibe - and don’t miss out on their great breakfast menu.

  • Tuck into the southern speciality of meat and three at Arnold’s Country Kitchen.

    Keeping it country 

    The concept of meat and three can be traced back to the cafeteria-style diners of early 20th century Nashville, designed to offer hearty plates of meat and veg to southern workers.£497 return

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7. Bolton's

One of the first places to have hot chicken in Nashville, Bolton’s still fry in cast iron pans. This place might be all about the chicken, but if you’re after a true taste sensation, make sure to try the hot fish sandwich. Get medium if you like spicy, and only get hot if you can really handle the heat.

8. Oak Steakhouse

I always head straight to Oak Steakhouse for a well-cooked ribeye with lots of different sauces. Steve Palmer recently opened Oak in downtown Nashville (the original location is in Charleston) and I’m so glad he did – the city needed a great modern steakhouse, and this fits the bill perfectly.

9. Folk

Folk, the new restaurant from Phillip Krajeck of Rolf & Daughters, is stunning. There are probably over a hundred plants in there, super high ceilings, floating lanterns, and some incredible art pieces. There’s a superb specialty pizza selection and, importantly, the food is as delicious as the restaurant is beautiful.  

Sean Brock is the founder of Husk restaurants, with locations in Nashville, South Carolina and Savannah. Follow Sean @hseanbrock